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Commercial Large-Scale 3D Printing System to Scale New Heights

By CIOReview | Wednesday, February 19, 2014

FREMONT, CA: The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Cincinnati, a manufacturer of high quality machine tools are to join hands and  develop a large-scale polymer additive manufacturing (3-D printing) system.

The key aim of this partnership is to accelerate the commercialization of a new additive manufacturing machine which can print large polymer parts faster and at a low cost. The partnership agreement assists the Department’s Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative to increase the efficiency of the U.S. manufacturing sector and ensure that innovative clean energy technologies continue to be developed in America.

Additive manufacturing, often referred as 3-D printing, can prove to be beneficial in saving time and energy over traditional manufacturing techniques in certain applications. But most 3-D polymer printers on the market today can manufacture only small prototype parts.

ORNL-CINCINNATI project could establish significant new capabilities to the U.S. tooling sector, by building a system which is 200 to 500 times faster and also is capable of printing polymer components 10 times larger than today’s common additive machines. Access to such technology nourishes domestic manufacturing of highly advanced components for industries like automotive, aerospace, appliance and robotics.

“The Energy Department and its national labs are forging partnerships with the private sector to strengthen advanced manufacturing, foster innovation, and create clean energy jobs for the growing middle class. Developing innovative manufacturing technologies in America will help ensure that the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow are created here in the United States, putting people to work and building a clean energy economy.” Said David Danielson, the Energy Department’s Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The project will bring in CINCINNATI’s skills in design and control of large-scale manufacturing systems, especially laser cutting systems used in metal fabrication. CINCINNATI also focuses on manufacturing powdered metal compacting presses, which is used to produce high volume production parts for the automotive industry. The research team will further proceed by integrating a high-speed cutting tool; pellet feed mechanism and control software into the gantry system to offer better capabilities.

“Today’s agreement with Cincinnati Incorporated exemplifies ORNL’s strong commitment to working with industry to move our innovations into real-world applications, these partnerships come with the potential for significant energy and economic impacts.” said ORNL Director Thom Mason.

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